Summary: What is the cost, how do I start to be a full disciple of Jesus Christ?
Tonight I am beginning a series of messages on Discipleship, Discipleship 101. It is the call of God in each believers life. Understand, there is a cost to discipleship. Anything worthwhile has a price, you can count on that. There is a big difference between glass and a diamond. There is a big difference between gold and brass. One is valuable, the other cheap. The things of life that have true value also come with a high price. This is particularly true of discipleship. There is a cost involved in being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Through the weeks ahead we are going to look at that cost. The Bible says in Mark 8:34, Jesus looked over the great crowd of people who were following them and gave them an invitation to join Him as His disciples. But his conditions shocked them. He said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me." Jesus laid out the price tag of discipleship and very few people took Him up on His offer. Perhaps few accepted His offer because in the multitudes were many people who only followed Jesus when it was convenient and entertaining. They were there for the healings, the free lunches, the miracles. If it was a warm sunny day these people were there. If it wasn’t too far to walk or if there was excitement but no real danger, they’d show up. They were not committed. They were not disciples. The price tag was far too high.
The Lord’s true disciples paid the price. Jesus had no motels to offer them, no salary. There was no McDonald’s along the way. He had no camels, horses or slaves to carry litters. So the disciples had to walk through the blistering heat of the desert and the chilling cold of the mountains.
At first they might have thought this to be a great adventure to follow Jesus. It must have been quite a break from bone-crushing labor and grinding dull routine of normal daily life in Biblical times. But some of the disciples must have grown weary of the strains that come with being a follower of Christ. But because they were true disciples, they stuck it out and completed the course, not however without failing a few lessons along the way. They graduated and then taught others how to be disciples.
Even though there seems to be many difference between the world in which we live and the world in which Jesus lived, there are also many similarities. Human nature is still the same. And Jesus still gives the same call: You want to be my disciple? Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. There is still a price to pay.
What will Discipleship 101 cost you? In what areas will you have to change? What will you have to do to be more like Christ?
Jesus said in the first part of His invitation to discipleship that we must deny ourselves This means disciplining ourselves to say no to things we want but do not need, to activities we know are wrong but that could be fun. We are to learn to be selfless instead of selfish. And all of these are hard lessons to learn.
Following self-denial instead of self-gratification is the invitation of the cross. When Jesus said, "Take up your cross" the cross wasn’t as honorable a symbol as it is today. It was big and ugly--a heavy, crude device of torture that conveyed a message of shame, suffering, and death. Today we miss some of the symbolism of the cross if we do not realize that disciples are to be workers. They are to carry their share even if it means sweating and suffering.
In many areas of the world Jesus’ disciples are still severely persecuted for their faith. Some are even executed.
Think for a moment how your friends reacted when you became serious about Jesus Christ. Perhaps some of them teased you, perhaps they really put you down and stopped going places with you. Even in our American culture, Jesus disciples suffer persecution. It costs to show courage, to stand up for what is right.
"Follow me," Jesus said. Jesus expected His disciples to follow Him every day, all day. Good days and bad days. They had no time off. He did not ask them to be disciples and them just do their own thing.
"Follow me," means going His places, not our own; following His plans, not our own. Obeying His will, not our own. Following Jesus instead of our own inclinations is tough. It may even seem unnatural compared to what we may be used to doing. But it is what He requires of His disciples.
To follow through with true discipleship, there may be some areas of your life that you might be threatened in. I think it is best to think about them in advance, to anticipate some potential changes.